Tag Archives: rand

My Totally Biased Required Reading List for Lovers of Liberty

The Federalist Papers: The best description of the principles of liberty and how to apply them.

The Road to Serfdom: Explanation of how big government leads to tyranny.

The Path to Tyranny: Show how big government has historically led to tyranny.

Atlas Shrugged: Shows what the consequences of government intervention on the American economy.

Please suggest other “Required” books in the comments.

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Atlas Shrugged: Tempe Town Lake dam bursts

In another story that could have come straight out of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged:

Tempe Town Lake overnight became a bog after one of the four inflatable bladders at the west end of the lake exploded around 9:44 p.m., sending a wall of water into the Salt River bed.

Tempe spokeswoman Kris Baxter estimated that at least three-quarters of the about 1 billion gallons of water had drained overnight. Officials say the dam breach left some areas of the lake with three feet of water or less; the average lake depth is about 16 feet.

So far, the story just sounds like a normal accident. But there is more to the story:

In April 2009, Tempe officials said they intended to ignore a safety recommendation from the makers of Town Lake’s rubber dams because sufficient safeguards already were in place to prevent the dams from deflating.

In 2009, the dams’ manufacturer, Bridgestone Industrial Products, had urged Tempe to evaluate whether the safety measures at the lake were sufficient “to prevent injury and reduce the risk of loss of life” if the dams were to rapidly deflate. Bridgestone manufactured the eight inflatable dams that contained the lake.

The eastern dams upstream are submerged and have held up. But a plan to keep the western dams wet failed, exposing the rubber to scorching sun that has damaged the material.

Tempe and Bridgestone officials have argued over whose fault that is. In March 2009, the City Council approved an agreement for Bridgestone to replace the four damaged dams at the lake’s western end.

But the question of people’s safety on the lake if the dams were to deflate remained a sticking point. Bridgestone recommended that the city look at increasing the buffer zone between safety buoys and the western dams, adding warning signage and enhancing the alarm system to better warn lake users if the dams rapidly deflate.

The cost to temporarily replace the dams was estimated at $2.5 million earlier this year. Tempe at that time budgeted an additional $250,000 to fund the project’s contingency costs. Bridgestone was expected to reimburse Tempe up to $3 million of the costs to replace the dam.

It is clear that Tempe knew about this problem for well over a year now and did nothing about it except complain and blame the manufacturer. Tempe should have taken Bridgestone’s advice on how to prevent this problem or replaced the dams entirely. Bridgestone may not be blameless here, but they did warn Tempe and Tempe chose to do nothing, endangering the river and people.

The Fall of Civilization Part 2: Asphalt Is Replaced By Cheaper Gravel; ‘Back to Stone Age’

A follow up to my recent post The fall of civilization spreads to Oakland.

The Wall Street Journal reports:

Paved roads, historical emblems of American achievement, are being torn up across rural America and replaced with gravel or other rough surfaces as counties struggle with tight budgets and dwindling state and federal revenue. State money for local roads was cut in many places amid budget shortfalls.

In Michigan, at least 38 of the 83 counties have converted some asphalt roads to gravel in recent years. Last year, South Dakota turned at least 100 miles of asphalt road surfaces to gravel. Counties in Alabama and Pennsylvania have begun downgrading asphalt roads to cheaper chip-and-seal road, also known as “poor man’s pavement.” Some counties in Ohio are simply letting roads erode to gravel.

Fans of Ayn Rand will of course be reminded of the country’s situation in Atlas Shrugged where highways and railroads deteriorated from neglect as economic conditions worsened when the government punished success and rewarded failure.

I am reminded of a much more ancient example. The prophet warns (Micah 3:12):

Therefore because of you, Zion will be plowed like a field, Jerusalem will become a heap of rubble, the temple hill a mound overgrown with thickets.

The Temple was a beautiful palace and holiest place on earth. Not only would it be destroyed, twice, it would be neglected, becoming a heap of rubble and overgrown with weeds. Is the same thing happening in American? Especially in places such as Detroit and other “rust belt” cities?

In fact, America’s situation may be even worse than ancient Israel’s. In ancient Israel, the temples were destroyed by foreign invaders. In modern America, as in Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, we are destroying our own property through self-imposed economic decline, especially in the industrial sector. We apparently need no help from foreign conquerors to go “Back to Stone Age,” as The Wall Street Journal describes it.

Biden: We Can’t Recover All the Jobs Lost. Michael E. Newton: Yes we can!

Vice-President Biden said:

Vice President Joe Biden gave a stark assessment of the economy today, telling an audience of supporters, “there’s no possibility to restore 8 million jobs lost in the Great Recession.”

I say we can restore those 8 million jobs and a lot more. But first, the government has to do something it is not used to doing: get out of the way. Given the chance, the American people will work hard and smart. We will succeed, but only if the government lets us. All we ask is that the government leave us be to work and earn the wages of our success and assume the costs of the risks we take.

First and foremost, government needs to reduce its share of economic output. In reality, government produces very little, but it does take money and redistribute it, a small percentage of which goes into goods and services that Americans want, though most of these could have been produced by the private sector. Look at this chart I posted earlier. Government’s share of the economy has steadily grown over the last hundred years. Every year, government creates more jobs, but this means fewer people available to work for private businesses, fewer people started new businesses, and fewer areas where private business can work without competing with government-run agencies or publicly subsidized organizations. Private business is being crowded out of the marketplace and it should be no surprise that they are not laying people off. Government needs to reverse this dynamic and enable the private sector to create jobs, take risks, and earn a profit.

Everybody knows that higher prices leads to less demand. Everybody except the politicians in Washington. High income tax rates discourages people from working. Taxes on dividends, interest, and capital gains discourage savings and investment. As a result, Americans are “going Galt” and going into debt. Why work hard to have most of your income taken away from you and given to somebody who doesn’t work? Why save and invest, risking a loss on your investment and paying taxes on any gains, when you can go in debt and have the government bail you out? To encourage work, government should lower income tax rates. To encourage new businesses and increased production, government should eliminate investment income. In fact, why not move to a consumption tax as Alexander Hamilton argued for in Federalist #21:

It is a signal advantage of taxes on articles of consumption that they contain in their own nature a security against excess. They prescribe their own limit, which cannot be exceeded without defeating the end proposed—that is, an extension of the revenue. When applied to this object, the saying is as just as it is witty that, “in political arithmetic, two and two do not always make four.” If duties are too high, they lessen the consumption; the collection is eluded; and the product to the treasury is not so great as when they are confined within proper and moderate bounds. This forms a complete barrier against any material oppression of the citizens by taxes of this class, and is itself a natural limitation of the power of imposing them.

While the working public pays exorbitant tax rates, the government has increased the incentives to not work. The government now provides 99 weeks of unemployment benefits. The government has expanded the food stamp program. The government has been “modifying” loans for those who were underwater. While I certainly believe we should be helping those hard hit by the recession, why not do it smartly? Instead of paying people not to work, let’s spend that same money encouraging business to hire more people and invest capital. In other words, lower taxes and reduce regulation. That is the best way to help those who are unemployed.

It is time for civil disobedience by the states

As we learned with the Civil War, states cannot simply secede from the union or nullify federal law. However, they can take a page from Henry David Thoreau and Mohandas Gandhi by simply refusing to enforce federal law.

The federal government itself is selective in which federal laws it enforces. For years, the feds have ignored their own immigration laws. Now, some states, most notably my home state of Arizona, are trying to enforce those laws and the Obama administration is trying to stop them.

If non-enforcement is legal and laudatory, the states should do so as well. Many states have already said they will not enforce the new health care reform bill. California has legalized many forms of drugs that are banned by the federal government. Technically, federal law still applies, but the states choose not to enforce them. Thus, if the federal government puts out a warrant for an individual who failed to comply with the health care law, the state law enforcement agencies could choose to ignore the warrant.

Of course, this situation is far from ideal. It would create chaos and uncertainty, but that is far preferable to the certainty of centralized control and tyranny.

On an individual basis, we are already seeing this civil disobedience. Millions buy goods over the Internet without paying sales tax. Legally, if the Internet retailer does not charge it, it is still the individual’s responsibility to pay it to the state. But nobody does and many buy online to avoid the sales tax and, thus, save money.

Additionally, the American people, by and large, are already “going Galt,” meaning they cut back on the hours worked to give less money to the government. Why work extra hard to have most of the money confiscated by the government and given to those who do not work? Why save and live below your means when you can go deep in debt and then get a government bailout or “government loan modification?”

Along the same line of “going Galt,” our high rates of taxation have also given a huge boost to “do it yourself.” See this post!

In a democratic system, the majority can always vote to take from the minority to give to the majority. The United States has left its republican roots (small government, rule of law, indirect elections) and become more democratic (direct election of Senators, ballot propositions, poll watching). Now that we are a democracy, the liberal/socialist/union/bureaucratic wing finds ways to create a majority of “takers” to elect them into office. Voting them out, permanently, has become impossible. We can overthrow them for an election cycle, maybe even a generation, but the left-wingers always reappear in some new disguise.

It is time to take more permanent action. Conservative states have to lead this effort. They have to oppose federal law through the courts and through non-enforcement. Individuals can go Galt and avoid paying taxes, but risk being sent to jail or having liens put on their property. States though have little to risk by opposing the federal government. A state cannot be put in jail. Fund can be denied it, but that is unlikely and is likely to further calls for secession.

I look to the states to lead us back to republicanism and federalism. And I look to the individual to vote for and defend the Constitution from the always growing federal government, from the many complicit state governments, and from the large population of people who vote themselves benefits at the expense of others.